Several prominent Republican National Committee members who backed chairman Michael Steele in 2009 will not support him this year, switching instead to support Steele's only announced rival.
Michigan RNC member Saul Anuzis, who announced his candidacy two weeks ago, will roll out his first roster of endorsements Tuesday in an effort to capture momentum before other candidates announce their own bids after the Thanksgiving break.
Some of the eight new RNC members publicly supporting Anuzis had backed Steele on the final ballots in 2009. They include Rhode Island GOP chairman Gio Cicione, Colorado Republican Party chairman Dick Wadhams and Delaware state GOP chair Tom Ross. Ross's defection will be the most painful for Steele, for whom Ross served as a regional whip during the votes.
Anuzis will also unveil support from West Virginia GOP chair Mike Stuart, Nebraska party chief Mark Fahleson and national committee members Linda Ackerman of California, Dana Randall of South Dakota and Heidi Smith of Nevada. With his own vote and support from Virginia national committee member Morton Blackwell, Anuzis now has 10 votes for chairman.
Other contenders, though, are showing no signs of backing down. Former RNC co-chair Ann Wagner has filed paperwork establishing a fundraising vehicle with the IRS. Former RNC official Maria Cino has filed similar paperwork with the FEC. And Wisconsin Republican Party chairman Reince Priebus is close to making his own decision, and he's already garnering support from other committee members like Illinois GOP chairman Pat Brady.
The roster of possible candidates also includes Republican Governors Association executive director Nick Ayers, former RNC political director Gentry Collins, former RNC chairman Mike Duncan, Connecticut party chairman Chris Healy and former South Carolina party chair Katon Dawson. Dawson has hinted he is also working to pull in a big name that would quickly coalesce RNC members.
What's unknown is whether Steele himself will run for re-election. Steele's inner circle has begun to crumble; Priebus, Brady and Ross were all big backers of Steele's 2009 campaign, and their departure has many speculating that Steele won't have the votes he needs to make a strong first-ballot showing. Steele has few public supporters, including Idaho party chairman Norm Semanko, who made his support for Steele public in a letter last week.
Steele has been on a post-election vacation, traveling to Rome to witness Washington Archbishop Donald Wuerl become a cardinal.